A Guide to the Artificial Intelligence Galaxy

A Guide to the Artificial Intelligence Galaxy

By Hayley Panagakis, May 30, 2018

A brown-eyed woman with a toothy smile made headlines last year when she received her citizenship to Saudi Arabia. Only, the woman isn’t human—she’s a robot named Sophia and is the first of her kind to be dubbed a real citizen. Created by Hanson Robotics, Sophia is a social, humanlike robot that uses a mix of artificial intelligence (a simulation of human intelligence by machines), visual data processing and facial recognition to imitate human gestures, respond during conversation and get smarter over time.

Sophia’s appearances in the press and at events (yes, you can book her as a speaker) has sparked a discussion on the not-so-distant future of AI and the implications it will have on humanity. In reality, AI has been creeping its way into businesses and daily operations for years, including in the events world.

“Many planners are still assuming artificial intelligence is something the future holds for us,” says Jim Spellos, owner of Meeting U. and educator in event technologies. “The truth is that its impact is being felt already, and is changing how we do our business.” Here are five ways AI is already making its mark on the lives of event planners, and how to use it.

Look, Ma! No Hands!

TSA checkpoints and delayed flights aside, lugging bags and suitcases around the airport is one of the most annoying parts of travel. But thanks to artificial intelligence, navigating through terminals is now a little easier with Travelmate, a fully autonomous suitcase and robot that follows you wherever you go—no hands necessary. The companion suitcase syncs with your phone so it knows what to follow, and uses AI to match your speed, navigate large crowds and avoid bumping into objects along the way. Traveling nearly 7 mph, Travelmate moves vertically and horizontally with wheels that turn 360 degrees for seamless movement. It also has a USB port to charge your devices, GPS tracking so you always know where it is and a touch-enabled lock that requires your fingerprint to open. Travelmate comes in three sizes—small (carry-on), medium and large—with prices starting at $1,100.

Ask Me Anything

Artificial intelligence already has a footprint in the events industry, largely through chatbots: automated tools designed to interact with and offer support to customers. These bots use AI to respond and adjust to customers’ needs and navigate through conversions. “On a simple level, the use of chatbots is a perfect opportunity for planners to see firsthand how AI can support their conferences,” says Spellos.

One such chatbot is Concierge EventBot by Sciens.io that’s specifically made for events. Spotted at several BizBash events in 2017, the bot uses text messaging to keep attendees informed on scheduling and other event details. Attendees can simply text it questions like “What time is the opening reception?” or the all-too-common, “What’s the Wi-Fi password?” and the bot will respond for you. Concierge EventBot can also send push notifications with any event updates, and inform you anytime attendees have a question that requires human assistance.

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Rosie, is that you? The sassy robot maid from “The Jetsons” is one step closer to becoming a reality. Hotels are jumping at the opportunity to bring robot maids/butlers to their staff to improve the guest experience. Crowne Plaza, Aloft, Residence Inn, Embassy Suites, Hotel Jen and Luma Hotel are among the brands welcoming Savioke’s fully autonomous Relay robots to select locations around the globe. The Relay bots deliver room service and amenities to guests—simply call the front desk and a human staff member will place your items in the robot’s compartment for delivery. As it approaches your door, the robo-butler will call your room to let you know it’s nearby. It will even chirp and dance for you as a thank-you after you receive your items. Relay robots can operate elevators and navigate crowds, but their best feature is they don’t require tips.

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Should We Be Scared?

Killer Robots?

At National Governors Association’s 2017 Summer Meeting, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, warned politicians of the potential dangers associated with artificial intelligence. “AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization,” said Musk in an onstage interview, urging for pre-emptive regulation. “Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal… AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive.” In August 2017, Musk was one of more than 100 leaders in AI to sign an open letter to the United Nations calling for prevention in the development of autonomous weapons.

Job Threat?

In a 2016 study by McKinsey & Company, manufacturing, food service and accommodations, retailing, and data collection and processing were reported as having the highest feasibility of becoming automated. The study also stated that it’s likely AI could replace jobs with predictable physical labor, but automate elements of other jobs.

While some jobs will be left for machines, Spellos says new jobs will be created in return. “This isn’t the first time in our country that this has happened,” he says. “What we are experiencing now is the transition from an industrial to information economy (in the same way we went from an agricultural to industrial economy [in the early 1800s]).”

What matters most is whether society and economies at large are able to keep up with the changes. “The difference is that the speed of change is so much greater today than it was in an earlier century that it will have massive, visible repercussions,” says Spellos.

How About Meetings?

Luckily for planners, artificial intelligence isn’t predicted to be much of a threat to jobs in the event planning field, largely because it’s highly relational and requires interaction with other people. Will Robots Take My Job? is a website created in response to a 2013 report by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne entitled “The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?” Using data from the report, the website says event planners are low on the totem pole of being replaced by robots—a 3.7 percent chance, it says.


> Artificial intelligence: A computer science framework focused on simulating human intelligence in machines

> Machine learning: A branch of AI that enables machines to learn from received data

> Deep learning: A branch of machine learning inspired by the brain

> Autonomous: A machine is autonomous when it is able to function independently without any human input after it has been programmed

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